Interview with Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris – Part 2

Welcome back for the conclusion to our interview with Phillipa (Pip) Ballantine and Tee Morris, authors of Phoenix Rising, a Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences story.

Part 1 of the interview can be read here.

 

AA: Pip and Tee, last time we left off talking about how your other works differ from Phoenix Rising. Authors often talk about how elements of their own lives, the reality and the dreams, make their way into their stories. How did this play into Phoenix Rising?

TM: I grew up on James Bond films and Avengers reruns. As a kid, and as an adult, they are so much fun to watch. My numerous trips to Washington D.C.’s International Spy Museum also appeals to the thrill-seeker and actor in me. I love a good cloak-and-dagger kind of story, and I really wanted to write something like that. There is, now that I think about it, a device in the Spy Museum from the 19th century that is very steampunk — a ring pistol. It looks like a large ring, but it has, in fact, several barrels where small pellets could be fired. Could it stop an opponent? Probably not. Could it incapacitate them? Oh yeah. This fascination of spies, technology, and British manners, I think, all came to fruition here.

 

AA: Bond and the Avengers, among probably far too many other tv shows, are among my regular re-watching list. Every author I’ve talked with has a different journey to seeing their works in print. What was your publishing experience for Phoenix Rising like?

PB: An adrenalin rush. Pretty much this time last year, we were in the midst of a bidding war for the property. After that was over it was straight into edits, marketing and podcasting. I was blown away that we got a chance to have input into the cover. We both come from an independent press history so working with a publicist from Harper Voyager was a real breath of fresh air.

 

AA: Thinking about that independent press experience, for the aspiring writer, what lessons did you learn about having an agent and editor, their feedback, and your writing?

TM: You might think your words are gold, but you have to realize the agents and editors are out there not to “undermine your story” but make your book a better book. They may understand the market far better than you can. Bottom line — pick and choose your battles, carefully. Make certain that you are willing to give and take in some areas, and remain steadfast in others. A good example, I can recall, is when an interested party in Phoenix Rising wanted Eliza to be born and raised in England, not New Zealand. Pip and I refused to budge on that. When Harper Voyager told us, “We like the story, but we need more subplots…” we developed those which took a lot of time but well worth the efforts. So yes, know when you want to roll with the feedback, and when you want to make a stand.

 

AA: Sounds like publishing can be a challenge and it’s important to stick to those things you really believe in about your work. If you weren’t authors, what else would you be doing now?

PB: I’d most likely go back to being a librarian. I worked in the corporate librarian world for thirteen years. I loved doing it, but eventually I had to leave just to keep up with my writing.

TM: I would probably be delving more into teaching and public speaking, something I did freelance for years. However, to do that, I’d still be writing, so if I wasn’t a novelist I’d probably be writing more non-fiction works on Social Media.

 

AA: What have book tours and conventions been like, and the fan reaction?

PB: We’re just starting off on the convention circuit, but we’ve been welcomed at by all kinds of steampunk and fantasy fans. We filled a room at Balticon for our teaparty where I made New Zealand biscuits.

 

AA: What do you do to keep a balance between writing and appearances, and the rest of your life?

TM: It’s not easy. I’m also a dad, and when Pip heads back to New Zealand (only for a short bit) I’m a single dad at that. And I have a full time job. There are times I don’t feel I am striking a balance but the balance is more about priorities. Before my job, before my writing, my child comes first. I’m there for her and always will be. I want her to be happy, healthy, and experiencing the wonderful world around us. Then comes the job where I use my Social Media powers for good. Then writing. Then the stuff I love to do related to writing — podcasting and blogging. The balance is not easy, but you can make it. It’s all about the priorities.

 

AA: Do you get to talk much with other writers and artists to compare notes, have constructive critique reviews, and brainstorm new ideas?

PB: We’ve both been part of the podcast novelist community for quite a while now, and we have some marvelous friends and colleagues. They’re also seeing all kinds of success so we shoot the breeze with them. We also have a dedicated kernel of fans that provide all sorts of useful ideas and fact checking. In Phoenix Rising we have had people contribute things like Italian translations to weapon information.

 

AA: As you look back on what you’ve accomplished, how have you and your work grown and changed over time?

PB: I’ve become a much more confident writer- which is a good thing since I’ve been doing it for over ten years now. I think learning that you can actually finish a novel is a big first step. I also have found as I have matured so have my characters. Life experiences—even in fantasy writing—are very useful to draw from as a writer.

TM: I think I am better at keeping my narration tight. MOREVI got quite flowery and a bit melodramatic in some places. I am still proud of the book, but it needed an editor. I look at Phoenix Rising and my other works of fiction and see the growth. I just want to continue growing and challenging myself like this.

 

AA: Writer’s block happens to everyone and can be rather frustrating. What is your solution to overcoming it?

TM: Step away from the computer and exercise. It can be a run, a swim, Zumba, or martial arts, but Writer’s Block for me is my internal indicator telling me I’m working too damn hard and I need a break. So I take one. It can be an hour, two at most. If it’s on a deadline, I head right back in. Otherwise I may take the rest of the day off. If you’re not good to yourself, it can manifest itself in a number of ways. One of them is Writer’s Block.

 

AA: How are your different home cities for writing? How has distance affected your collaboration? Does location matter for resources, access, publicity, etc?

PB: I’m in Virginia with Tee right now, but Wellington is a very creative place, full of artists of all kinds. It’s also a very beautiful place that fires the imagination.

TM: The biggest blow for us when Pip relocated to the US was in production. When Pip was in New Zealand, we would be writing when each other was fast asleep, meaning we were producing words literally 24 hours at a time. The bad news was the small window we had to share and swap ideas and concepts. In the same room together, Pip and I brainstorm far easier and far more efficiently. I’d much rather have Pip here in order to catch real time reactions and feedback on ideas and directions.

 

AA: Most of the authors I’ve talked with have some type of day job and that writing is their other job. What has that situation been for you and how has it helped/hindered begin a published writer?

PB: I went full-time writing April 2010. Before that I was a corporate librarian.

TM: I am a Social Media Manager for a company in the identity theft prevention industry. Having the day job has hindered me a bit in that my window of time to write is now very, very narrow. When I was freelancing with public speaking and teaching, I had quite a few more hours to play with, but the steady paycheck with benefits that I’m getting now is nothing to sneeze at. One unexpected perk for my day job is the lunch hour where I can get in a run. When I run, I usually brainstorm a bit about characters, plot developments, and possible gadgets.

 

AA: Do people outside the regular reading, steampunk, and convention communities recognize you for Phoenix Rising or your other books? What kind of reactions have you received?

TM: That happened, of all places, here at my day job. Someone from IT was walking by my cubicle (which is decorated with a myriad of magnets) and recognized magnets from the card game “Skallywags.” He struck up a conversation with me, and then after a few minutes he looked at my cubicle’s nameplate. He did a double-take and asked “Wait a minute—are you the Tee Morris who does the free audio fiction? I’ve be a fan of yours for years!” That was a bit surreal, but I’m hoping Phoenix Rising will garner that sort of attention.

 

AA: Looking beyond steampunk, writing and working, what other interests fill your time?

PB: Writing has pretty much consumed my life at the moment, but I do love to travel.

TM: I’m with Pip on that. I love to travel, both in country and overseas. I would like to be able to continue doing that with Pip and my daughter. I’d also like to get back into the martial arts. It’s not only a good workout, it’s a good way to “enhance my calm” particularly around deadlines.

 

AA: How do those interests influence your work?

PB: Travel is a great way to get inspiration. It broadens your world view and exposes you to other cultures.

TM: Martial arts makes fight scenes a bit easier to write.

 

AA: It has been great chatting with both of you, hearing about the book and getting to know you a bit better. Do you have any final thoughts to share with our readers?

PB: I am enjoying writing in the steampunk universe, it has allowed me to meet some fantastically creative people.

TM: We’ve been having a blast the more we learn about steampunk, and we are still learning as other steampunk authors that we are defining a genre and have a lot of directions we can go with this. We hope you join us for what’s next.

 

Thanks again for joining us at Airship Ambassador.

Readers, please check out their website for more information and Ministry news.

Also, have a listen to the Tales from the Archives podcasts

And watch this trailer for Phoenix Rising

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Published in: on June 26, 2011 at 7:34 pm  Comments (1)  
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Interview with Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris – Part 1

This week we are talking with Phillipa (Pip) Ballantine and Tee Morris, authors of Phoenix Rising, a Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences story.

Airship Ambassador: Hi Pip  and Tee, thanks for making the time to share with us in this interview.

Pip Ballantine: It’s a pleasure, Ambassador.

Tee Morris: We’ve been looking forward to talking to you.

AA: Phoenix Rising was just released in April from Harper Voyager. Could you share some of the story details with us?

PB: It’s the tale of a female secret Agent from the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences who gets demoted (after a few explosive incidents) to the Archives. Here she meets Wellington Thornhill Books who appears to be her exact opposite. He does everything according to regulation and enjoys being the Archivist. She loves breaking the rules and can’t stand paperwork. However she uncovers a mysterious unsolved case which her previous partner ended up confined to Bedlam, and before Wellington knows it, he is tagging along to help her solve it. It’s a romp through all levels of London society packed with action and adventure.

AA: I enjoyed the take on “brains and brawn” with the character names, Books and Braun, and it sets up an immediate image of what the characters might be like. What were some of the intentional character elements you included? Were there some unexpected additions or changes over time?

TM: Whenever you have characters as dynamic as these two, you want to have a nice baseline to build on, and then when you go back and review your draft, the refinement begins. For example, I wanted Eliza to be sexy and edgy, but not necessarily jumping into bed or reveling in sexuality like James Bond (to whom she is often compared to). The more we worked with Eliza, the more we came to realize that Eliza is still sexy and edgy, and she uses both to get what she wants, but she’s not using sex to obtain her mission goals. She’s got a softer side, and she’s not quite hopping into the sack with every dashing rogue that crosses her. Same with Wellington. He’s prim and proper, sure; but he is also a bit of a rebel in his tinker work, creating unauthorized field equipment for himself and Eliza. His penchant for gadgetry does lend himself to a streak of vanity. This all may sound like the ingredients for a truly unlikable character; but as the story progresses, we get other aspects of Wellington that shows he is doing everything he can not to fall to trappings his father set for him. This is why I enjoy writing so much — starting simply, and then adding on to the layer cake.

AA: When I get my young nieces and nephews to read Phoenix Rising, what would you like for them to take away from the story and the characters that they could apply to their own lives?

PB: I guess from Eliza you could take the fact that you should never give up, no matter what the circumstances. From Wellington you could learn that sometimes you have to go outside your comfort zone, and once you do you can discover all sorts of amazing things about the world and yourself.

AA: What kind of research, and then balance, went into creating the Phoenix Rising world?

TM: We started with the basics of late Victorian history. We wanted to make certain that we have, at the very least, the era right. Then, when bringing in the steampunk technology, we needed to bring in the pros and the cons of these devices. For example, the lavish steampunk artillery you see at conventions — yeah, they look pretty, but there’s got be a give and take. So with Katherina, Eliza’s gun seen in the opening, was limited into how many rounds it could hold. There were also a few frailties with Wellington’s auralscope. Making the devices operational, but also giving them limitations, was a balance we strove for in the book.

AA: Michelle Black, author of A Second Glass of Absinthe, has talked about the difference between knowing history and feeling history. What elements did you include so readers could feel the Phoenix Rising history?

PB: To me, history comes alive when you can access it through sensations. To imagine the smells, the sights and sounds of an era is to immerse yourself in it. When you walk the streets of London with Eliza and Wellington, we hope you smell the grubby urchins, feel the dirt under your fingertips, and hear the call of the streetsellers. Such things are the embroidery on a story that make up an all encompassing experience.

AA: What kind of back story is there for Phoenix Rising which didn’t make it into the final book?

TM: Funny you should ask about that, as we are currently exploring the Ministry’s back story in a podcast anthology called Tales from the Archives. We reached out to several authors, some who were steampunk but never podcast and some who were podcasters but had never written steampunk, and we asked them to come up with cases that took place before the events of Phoenix Rising. The end result has been steampunk short stories set in South America, Africa, and New Zealand. We meet Wellington Books’ predecessor. We find out what brings Eliza from Aotearoa to old Blighty. And my own contribution will be the founding of the Ministry itself. So, yeah, our back story is there, available as a podcast either on iTunes or on our blog’s RSS feed.

AA: What is coming up next for Books and Braun?

PB: In the sequel Of Cogs & Corsets, Eliza and Wellington get caught up in the goings on of the suffrage movement and the mysterious disappearance of some of its members. Many of the secondary characters people enjoyed will return. We also get a bit more of a glimpse into our agents past and what drives them.

AA: The trailer for Phoenix Rising is entertaining to watch and looks like it would have been fun to produce? What went into creating it?

TM: When you are on a budget, as we were, and you want to make a book trailer. (Or, to be quite frank, a GOOD book trailer) you have to think smart. You want it to look professional without getting in over your head financially. I knew what I could afford, but a good amount of planning went into this 2-minute video.

The first challenge was where do I shoot it? I started scouting locations, and as I live around a lot of American Civil War battlefields, I was keeping options open; but it was a weekend in Staunton, Virginia that gave me a lot of potentially beautiful places to shoot. The next question is what would I be shooting? Since we didn’t have the resources (this time) to shoot scenes from the book, we aimed to capture the mood of the book. I kept things simple, even down to the comic moment at the end. Nothing seen in the trailer happens in Phoenix Rising, but the trailer is everything Phoenix Rising is. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you keep it simple.

Perhaps the biggest advantage for us was the editing process. As I am a video podcaster, have the Final Cut Suite to tap into, and LOVE working video production, the only cost to us was time. I applied quite a few tricks and effects only available with Final Cut Pro, Soundtrack, and Motion. And then I taught myself a few new tricks with this project. As much hard work went into it, it was a real delight to put together. We managed to do a screening of the trailer in HD on a 42” flat-screen monitor at Balticon, and the audience (even people who had seen it before) were digging it.

Will we do another one? I think so, yes. This time, with more resources and time to plan.

AA: Beyond Books and Braun, there are other Agents of The Ministry. Who are they and what are their roles??

PB: The Ministry is populated with men and women from all over the British Empire. There are regional offices of the ministry in all those countries, but the first two books of the Ministry are set in England. In the Head Office the Agents act as investigating officers and also as liaisons to their home governments.

It has been fun fleshing out the other Agents in the Ministry, and in the sequel some of them get to come to the fore. Agent Campbell is from Australia and is a delight to write. I have a lot of fun with the competitive sibling relationship New Zealanders have with Australian. He’s dashing, arrogant and more than a bit of a rogue. In Of Cogs & Corsets we also get to meet Agent Brandon Hill, who is Canadian, and just a little bit mad, but also perfectly adorable.

We’ve been adding many of the agents’ bios to our website http://www.ministryofpeculiaroccurrences.com/agents/

AA: What are some memorable fan reactions to Phoenix Rising which you’ve heard about so far?

TM: When people tell us they are reminded of John Steed and Emma Peel of The Avengers, I smile. I smile wide. I wanted The Ministry Of Peculiar Occurrences series to have that feel. Steed was always a hero of mine and I wanted to capture that lightening in a bottle.

A real pick-me-up was when, on Goodreads, The Guild’s Felicia Day gave us a four-star review (which means we have to aim high for the elusive fifth star). What was funnier still was I had just finished watching The Guild for the first time. It was a real treat getting her reaction to our book, and knowing we entertained her for a few hours.

Perhaps the most curious reaction though, from Felicia and many other readers, has been to the hellfire club. Not giving away any spoilers, but when we introduce the Phoenix Society, we provide a rather “risqué” look at polite society’s indulgences. We actually dialed it back a few notches, but when we hear people say “They didn’t do THAT in Victorian England…” Pip and I are at a loss. The research was done, and then truth is out there. The Victorians — they were a randy lot.

AA: People continue to hear about Phoenix Rising every day. How are those new readers finding you – conventions, website, word of mouth, etc?

PB: Hopefully it is all of the above. We have been hitting everywhere we can, because the worst thing for a new novel is people not knowing it is out there. Conventions are a lot of fun because you not only get to meet readers, but also fellow writers. Online is absolutely necessary place to be, and the book bloggers are very powerful. With the rise of social media, people can find out what their friends are enjoying and try it themselves.

AA: This is your first collaboration together for a novel, although you’ve done some podcasting together before. How did it come about?

TM: I was gun-shy at first about collaborating with Pip as a previous collaboration I was involved with went south and to this day I still don’t have a clear reason as to why it happened. I didn’t want to jeopardize my (then) friendship with Pip, but she convinced me that we would “do it right.” First, it wasn’t going to be a novel we’d collaborate on. Initially we were planning to have Phoenix Rising be a “podcast for pay.” The two of us were going to introduce Books, Braun, and the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences as I had just started on a novel that was based around Doctor Sound, who he was, and what the Ministry did on a daily basis. I was all set to proceed with it until someone affiliated with Pip’s agent got wind of the property and asked “When can we see it?” One agent’s contract later, I was signed on and we started writing. A lot. Quickly.

AA: What was the actual collaboration process? Did you each have specific areas or roles, or was there a lot of overlap?

PB: It started off with Tee writing from Wellington’s Point of View, and me writing Eliza. However things began to change as we added in side plots and worked on editing. We edited each others portions and we wrote the interludes together. So as we went along the style of Ministry became a distinct thing.

AA: How did the idea Phoenix Rising actually come up?

TM: The genesis of the Phoenix Society (from where Phoenix Rising came from) is based on a lot of things. At its core is the philosophy of Henry Havelock Ellis. Ellis was a British physician, psychologist, writer, and reformist who studied human sexuality, credited with introducing the notions of narcissism and autoeroticism. Then you have hellfire clubs that Wikipedia describes in a nutshell as “… rumored to be the meeting places of ‘persons of quality’ who wished to take part in immoral acts, and the members were often very involved in politics. Neither the activities nor membership of the club are easy to ascertain.” We took these elements and created the Phoenix Society, and with a bit of history tempering, we came up with Wellington and Eliza’s first case.

AA: As the idea developed, what were some other literary, art or musical influences?

TM: The biggest influence any kind of period-accurate art had on Phoenix Rising is with the opera scene. We wrote dialogue and timed certain moments in that scene with Verdi’s treatment of Shakespeare’s MacBeth, and that was a riot to write. I’m surprised Pip didn’t get a bit burned out by the music, but setting a bit of intrigue to the opera was good fun. We read a portion of that scene to the Balticon Tea Party crowd, and I think it sold a few books.

AA: Tee, you’ve previously written a number of instructional books, such as Podcasting for Dummies, and fiction such as Legacy of Morevi. Pip, you’ve written Geist and the upcoming Spectyr. For both of you, how different was writing Phoenix Rising?

PB: For me the Ministry books are about fun and having a rollicking good time. My series that started with Geist, is much darker and with the element of magic thrown in quite different. People have called it creepy and intense. And while there are creepy moments in Phoenix Rising, it is more about the adventure, the snarky banter and the gadgets.

TM: The biggest difference for me was returning to fiction and taking the research and making it an element in the story rather than the focus of the title. I had not worked on any long form fiction in years, and Phoenix Rising was a long-overdue homecoming for me. I had missed writing fiction. Another big leap from me is that now I was a bit more accessible with Harper Voyager than with Dragon Moon Press. Dragon Moon was very good to me, but Harper Voyager has been a huge step forward. I’m now looking at what my next step will be.

We’ll conclude our interview with Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris in the next post.

Until then, check out the website for more information,

Listen to the Tales from the Archives podcasts #1 and #2

And watch this trailer for Phoenix Rising

 

Click here to read the rest of the interview

Part 2

 

Published in: on June 19, 2011 at 10:08 pm  Comments (12)  
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Interview with Michelle Black – Part 3

Welcome back as we conclude our talk with Michelle Black, author of An Uncommon Enemy and The Second Glass of Absinthe.

Part 1 of the interview can be read here.

Part 2 of the interview can be read here.

 

AA: Last time you were telling us about Victoria Woodhull. Her story is so amazing, and I have to say that if Victoria had been covered in my school’s history classes, they would have been far more interesting! Along the lines of Victoria, you were ahead of the curve by at least 10 years when you started using the Rocket ebook in 1998. What did you think of that pioneering device and what reaction did you get from other people? How do you both have evolved since then?

MB: I was a serious early adopter. <laughs> And part of it was because the very first publisher I ever sold a novel to was an electronic publisher. It was called Hard Shell Word Factory and was run by a woman named Mary Wolf. She was a visionary. She saw the digital future of books long before any of her counterparts in New York.

The same year my first novel was published, the Rocket ebook was introduced. I just had to have one. It actually looked and read a lot like the Kindle. The only difference was the battery weight. The Rocket was much heavier, even though it was about the same size as the Kindle. Plus it was expensive. If I recall, it was about $500. This was in the late ‘90s, so that was even more money than it sounds like now. Still, I think it was a great device.

Digital reading is a classic example of an activity that was developed, but waited on another invention to make it effective and ultimately popular. It’s like how building skyscrapers was possible but not practical until they invented a reliable elevator.

Reading books on a computer was possible for years, but just wasn’t an enjoyable experience. Being able to read on a hand held device made all the difference.  And we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the new possibilities that digital books will create—just the interactivity alone will revolutionize what we think of as a “book.”

 

AA: You re-published your first book, An Uncommon Enemy, as an ebook – what kind of journey has that been? There was reversion of rights, formatting, republishing, marketing, doing it all yourself.

MB: Yes, I call that my “craft project.” That was lots of fun.  And with an unexpected conclusion. An Uncommon Enemy came out as a hardcover the week of Sep 11th, 2001.  A very sad week. And a really sad week to be on a book tour, I can tell you. Although the book eventually went into a second printing, I never felt it really found its audience.

The years went by and the rights reverted back to me from Macmillan, so that I could do anything I wanted with the book. I got the idea I would digitally re-publish it on Kindle and other formats too. I taught myself how to format the document, through trial and error, but it wasn’t that hard. I would advise anyone to give it a try.  It’s a lot of fun and it costs nothing.

In August, 2010, I published An Uncommon Enemy as a Kindle edition. A few weeks after it came out, a Kindle blogger reviewed it and liked it, and within a couple of hours of that review being posted An Uncommon Enemy started rising on the Amazon rankings— from 124,000th in ranking to 127th.  I couldn’t believe my eyes. By the next morning it was #1 for western novels, across all formats, paper or pixel, and stayed there for several weeks.

I had found overnight success—if by overnight you mean nine years! <Laugh> It  was a lot of fun to think that a project I had started as a lark ended up producing my first bestseller.

 

AA: Nine years is a pretty long night! With several published books and more on the way, what lessons have you learned along the way about interactions and benefits of an agent and an editor?

MB: You can learn a lot from both. Working with people who have been in the publishing field all their lives, either as agents or editors, (and often those agents have been editors at some point in their careers), have knowledge and insight into the publishing world that is hard to duplicate just from reading books or blogs about it.  Having their advice and counsel is excellent. Finding an agent who sincerely wants to help a writer build a career (as opposed to simply publishing one book) would be the best situation.

I can’t say enough about working with a good editor. One can fine tune your work amazingly.  The gentleman I worked with at Tor Forge was wonderful. He is retired now, but we are still friends and email constantly.

He was formerly the Editor in Chief of a large university press and was definitely old school in his style.  He would go through every single line of every page with his editor’s pen. His work was so thorough he used to joke that he left nothing for the copyeditor to do! (The copyeditor’s job is to spot the typos and inconsistencies in a manuscript after it has been edited for content.)

Once you’ve worked with a really good editor, you learn to self-edit as you write with much more precision.

 

AA: For self publishing an ebook, what are your words of advice (Kindle and Smashwords charge nothing to publish, Smashwords tools, Write beware, etc)

MB: I frequently speak on this issue at writers’ conferences. In June, I will participate in e-publishing panels at the Historical Novel Society’s Conference in San Diego and at the Western Writers of America Conference in Bismarck, ND.

I have a workshop handout available on my blog: www.TheVictorianWest.com that gives a brief overview of self-publishing options to help authors decide if this is a step they might want to take. The handout contains links to a number of helpful sites on the web.

I have had good experiences dealing directly with Amazon for Kindle publishing and for Print on Demand through their CreateSpace subsidiary. Smashwords is also an option. None of these sites charge any fees for publishing.

The most crucial advice I would offer any author, whether self-publishing or looking for a traditional publisher, is to consult the Writers Beware site offered at http://www.sfwa.org. This is an excellent watchdog site to warn writers away from  questionable or even downright sleazy business practices among agents, publishers, and some so-called self-publishing companies (that are actually exploitive vanity presses in disguise).

 

AA: You’ve been on quite the circuit since I last saw you at Steamcon II. You have a blog, there was an article in True West Magazine, you’ve been to more conventions and done other interviews, and I see you in the Twitter #steampunkchat on Friday nights. What else is on your schedule coming up for 2011?

MB: I plan to return to Steamcon III. My husband and I have attended the previous two and had a fantastic time.

I now have two blogs that keep me busy: www.TheVictorianWest.com where I write about a number of issues, usually related to Steampunk or writing in general. My newly launched Absinthe Victoriana (www.absinthevictoriana.com) focuses narrowly on the topic of absinthe—its history and culture. I also have a full color brochure on this topic to hand out at conferences where I am speaking on the subject.

I had great fun writing a feature article on Western Steampunk for True West Magazine this spring. Now I can add the title of “Steampunk journalist” to my resume.

 

AA: Séance in Sepia is scheduled to be published in hard cover by Five Star Mysteries in October – what teasers can you share with us about this Victorian suspense story?

MB: Séance in Sepia is a mystery novel revolving around a Victorian “spirit photograph.”  Some 19th Century photographers claimed they could photograph the departed during a séance. A woman in the present day buys such a photo at an estate sale. She starts researching it and learns that the three people in the picture were at the center of a notorious murder trial in 1875 Chicago. A young architect was accused of murdering his wife and his best friend in what the local press dubbed “The Free Love Murders.”

The story emerges through trial transcripts, a diary by one of the victims, and the notes of a jailhouse interview that Victoria Woodhull conducted with the accused husband.  Was it a double murder, as the prosecution claims; a double suicide, as the distraught husband fears; or a murder-suicide, and if so, who killed whom?

As Victoria Woodhull probes deeper into the story, she becomes entangled in a web of fraud and deceit that will take much more than a séance to unravel.

 

AA: Thank you so much for taking the time to share your stories with us, Michelle! Are there any final thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?

MB: Follow your dreams! You can’t imagine where they might take you and you’ll never know unless you try.

 

Until Séance in Sepia is released, visit Michelle’s website for more news and  information.

Published in: on June 12, 2011 at 8:13 am  Comments (1)  
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